Everything is permissible—but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible—but not everything is constructive (1 Corinthians 10:23).
These words Paul penned to the people in Corinth still ring true today. Thanks to our men in uniform, we live in a country where we are free to choose. We can choose where we live, what career path to take, what we eat, when we get up, whom we marry and how many kids we want. We can choose who to include, who to exclude, to tell the whole truth or a little white lie, to speed, steal, or vandalize, to gossip, be kind—or not and who or what to worship.
EVERYTHING is permissible.
Really? That’s what the good Book says. Everything IS permissible BUT . . . yep, there’s always a but . . . not everything is beneficial. Not everything is advantageous for us to do. We can certainly speed, steal or vandalize. We do indeed have the freedom to choose to do so. The police officer can also arrest us and throw us in jail. Then, we can pay big money to get out.
We can choose any number of things because everything is permissible. But God, in his wisdom, knows that certain things are not beneficial to us. It’s why he places boundaries for us to live in. It is advantageous for us to keep within them. Can we do anything we want to? Sure. That’s called free will. And it goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden.
God gave them free rein in the most exotic, beautiful place and gave them one boundary: not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God knew it would not be beneficial for them to do so. But they did it, and the rest is history. In a place with no weeds, their garden was now full of them. In a place where taking care of things wasn’t called work, it now became toilsome. Sound familiar?
Then there are the people of Corinth to whom this book is written. Corinth was a city rich in commerce and Greek philosophy, lots of religious options and unbridled immorality. In fact, because of the widely known sexual immorality, the Greek verb “to Corinthianize” was coined, meaning, “to practice sexual immorality.” And right there in the middle of this city with its gods, goddesses and sensual anything goes thoughts, sat the church of Corinth. (No we have not been zapped back in time but things sure haven’t changed much have they?)
Then Paul repeats and adds: Everything is permissible—but not everything is constructive. Constructive means to build up or edify. Paul goes on in that same chapter to say, Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others (v. 24).
Instead of thinking, I can do anything I want, maybe we need to start thinking differently: Sure, I can do anything because everything is permissible BUT do my words and actions build up or tear down? Do my words and actions benefit others and myself?
If the answer is no, we can choose a different path. There are always options!
Dr. Henry Cloud, the boundaries expert says, God created us free. He gave us responsibility for our freedom. And as responsible free agents, we are told to love him and each other. This emphasis runs throughout the whole Bible. When we do these three things—live free, take responsibility for our own freedom, and love God and each other—then life can be an Eden experience (Boundaries in Marriage).
So today, I am thankful for choices. I am thankful for the freedom to choose those things that are beneficial to me and to others and to choose those things that will edify and build up those who need building . . . including myself.
Let Freedom Ring!